Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Defines a Beracha? Part 2

In the previous post we discussed the issue of Kavana in a beracha. We brought the gemara in Berachos 12b where a person makes a correct beracha in the end but at the beginning of the beracha he had the wrong beracha in mind. Does that improper kavana ruin the beracha? The gemara ends with no conclusion.

We brought a question from a Rambam (Tefillah 10:6) that paskens that in davening if in the middle of shemoneh esrai you suddenly realized that you already davened you should stop davening. The idea is that the tefillah in the beginning is tefillas chovah. You can't then continue b'toras nedava because a tefillas chovah and tefillas nedavah are two different cheftzas of tefillah.

A commenter correctly pointed out that this stirah might not really be a stirah in the Rambam at all because there are different ways to learn that gemara. I think the commenter is absolutely right that if we are going to do this the right way we have to look at each rishon separately and not try to string together all the shitos. So let's take a look at the two Rambams:

Rambam Berachos 8:11-

יא לָקַח כּוֹס שֶׁלְּשֵׁכָר בְּיָדוֹ, וְהִתְחִיל הַבְּרָכָה עַל מְנָת לוֹמַר שֶׁהַכֹּל, וְטָעָה וְאָמַר בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגֶּפֶן--אֵין מַחְזִירִין אוֹתוֹ

The Rambam seems to be saying that if a guy meant to say shehakol and accidentally said hagafin it's fine. Thus, the Rambam here seems to be saying that we follow kavana over what the person actually said.

Rambam Tefillah 10:6-

מִי שֶׁהָיָה עוֹמֵד בַּתְּפִלָּה, וְנִזְכַּר שֶׁכְּבָר הִתְפַּלַּל--פּוֹסֵק וְאַפִלּוּ בְּאֶמְצַע הַבְּרָכָה; וְאִם הָיְתָה תְּפִלַּת עַרְבִּית--אֵינוּ פּוֹסֵק, שֶׁלֹּא הִתְפַּלַּל אוֹתָהּ מִתְּחִלָּה אֵלָא עַל דַּעַת שְׁאֵינָהּ חוֹבָה

Here the Rambam is pretty clearly saying that the intention for chovah makes it a tefillas chovah and the tefillah can no longer be mitztaref to tefillas nedavah.

So, in terms of the final psak of the Rambam I really don't see any stirah. It seems that the person's kavana does determine the nature of the beracha.

A final issue to deal with is why should the person's kavana should be important at all? What about the general principal that mitzvos don't need kavana?

This question is addressed by Rabbeinu Yonah. A number of answers are given. First, it could be that by mitzvos of amirah kavana is needed. (Rabbi Schachter brings a Teshuvos Ben HaYemin that this is only by berachos.) Another answer given is that even though mitzvos don't require kavana, but a wrong kavana does mess up the mitzvah.

I was thinking to approach this from a slightly different angle. Sometimes a person does a mitzvah without proper kavana. In such a case the maaseh is a maaseh mitzvah and the only problem is the lack of kavana. However, in halacha there is also a category called misasek. Misasek is generally understood as meaning that you did not even intend to do the maaseh. For example, if I pick up a lulav not intending for the mitzvah - that is eino miskaven. However, if I am trying to pick up something else and then pick up the lulav - that is misasek. There it's not a question of a maaseh without kavana, but rather it may not be a maaseh mitzvah at all.

The way the Rambam explains the case the person actually meant to say shehakol and said hagafen. I would think this is more comparable to misasek than eino miskaven. If so, we can understand why having the kavana to say the wrong beracha could mess everything up. If you actually said something different than you intended it may be as if you said nothing at all. We will address the relationship between misasek and mitzvos tzrichos kavana more in the next post.

A final issue is what about in the Rambam's actual case where you said the wrong beracha and had the right intention. How can this be good? You didn't even say the right thing. Perhaps the commenter was correct when he explained as follows:

this is the shitah of the rambam, who alone among the rishonim holds that one can be yotzeh a bracha through hirhur alone

The commenter is probably referring to Hilchos Berachos 1:7 where the Rambam is in fact mashma that you can be yotzei a beracha without actually saying anything. Here is that Rambam -

ז כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת כֻּלָּן, צָרִיךְ שֶׁיַּשְׁמִיעַ לְאָזְנוֹ מַה שְׁהוּא אוֹמֵר; וְאִם לֹא הִשְׁמִיעַ לְאָזְנוֹ, יָצָא--בֵּין שֶׁהוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו, בֵּין שֶׁבֵּרַךְ בְּלִבּוֹ